With his latest tilt at a third NBA title seemingly slipping away with Friday’s Game Four defeat to Golden State, Cleveland’s LeBron James allowed his frustrations to boil over onto the court.
James wrestled with Golden State’s Draymond Green and barked at league MVP Stephen Curry in the closing minutes of a 108-97 loss that pushed him to the brink of a familiar Finals downfall.
James and Green got tangled up with just under three minutes remaining, and as the Warriors forward fell to the floor James stepped over him. The two exchanged words as a heated James had to be held back by teammates.
“Draymond said something that I don’t agree with,” James told reporters after the Cavaliers fell behind 3-1 in the best-of-seven series.
“I’m all cool with the competition, but some of the words that came out of his mouth were a little bit overboard.”
James compiled 25 points, 13 rebounds and nine assists in 46 minutes but still found himself one defeat away from his third consecutive Finals series loss.
“He could’ve gotten tired,” Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue said, of his standout forward. “But in the NBA Finals you’ve got to lay it all on the line. In nine days you can rest all summer.”
Having been beaten for the title by the San Antonio Spurs in 2014 and overpowered by the Warriors last year, another Finals failure would drop James to a career 2-5 record in NBA Championship series.
His frustrations seemed to reach boiling point in the fourth quarter on Friday when he initiated trash-talk with Curry, who has replaced him as the face of the NBA.
James said he was not being given calls by officials when he was being fouled.
“I’m not quite sure what I can do personally to get to the free throw line. It’s been like that all year,” James said after taking just four shots from the foul line on Friday.
“I’m getting hit but the refs are not seeing it that way. It’s tough playing 46 minutes and only going to the line four times.”
Cleveland will attempt to narrow the gap in Game Five in Oakland on Monday. Of the 32 teams who have faced a 3-1 deficit in the NBA Finals none have come back to win the championship.